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Eat, Play, Sleep: Santa Cruz

Annie Tittiger | October 18, 2012 | Story Travel Weekend Escapes California Destinations

With farms like Love Apple Farms in your backyard, it’s hard not to find good produce in Santa Cruz. Every week, the chef at Soif goes to the farmers’ market right around the corner to stock up, and bases the menu on what’s available at the market. The result? Dishes like the little gem lettuce salad with cherry tomatoes and baby radishes, coated with a crème fraiche lemon vinaigrette, which adds a distinctly fresh bite. Or go for the house-made pappardelle with lamb sugo and sautéed oyster mushrooms. But you’re not just here for the food: the wine selection is extensive, and should you fall in love with a glass you can poke into the attached retail shop to pick up the bottle after your meal. 105 Walnut Ave., 831-423-2020

Café Brasil
For breakfast, swing by Café Brasil, and if you can, snag a spot on their outdoor patio. You can get your breakfast standards but the menu gives you some off-the-beaten path options as well like the traditional Costa Rican breakfast of galo pinto or a potato scramble with no eggs. But the real winner is the Avocado a Cavalo: avocado, tomatoes, and fried egg on top of a baguette broiled with mozeralla cheese. Simple as that. 1410 Mission St., 831-429-1855

October is prime wildlife-watching season in Santa Cruz. Humpback whales are making their way up the coast, the Monarch butterflies are settling into hibernation in the redwoods, the coast line is always riddled with harbor seals and plenty of sea-faring birds. And with 14 state parks in the county, there’s plenty of places to get closer to nature. Big Basin alone encompasses 18,000 acres of redwood forest. So yeah, it can be a bit intimidating. For definite seal and seabird spotting, check out the easy 3-mile loop at Wilder Ranch, a mile north of downtown. For the Monarchs, head to Natural Bridges’ eucalyptus grove. The insects hang from the trees like leaves—bright, orange leaves.

Hotel Paradox
The new hotel aims to “give a chic vibe to lodging on the central coast,” and let’s be honest, luxury has been lacking, but not at Paradox. Sleek minimalist décor is intermingled with more rustic touches (read: refurbished drift wood headboards and rain showers), and just a smidgen of humor: they have a wall of clay squirrels running from the restaurant down the hall to the rooms. You’ll have to see it to believe it. With a pool, fire pit, and outdoor bar it’s the perfect place for relaxing after a hard day of hikes. Rooms start at $155, 611 Ocean St., 855-425-7200

Can't make it out this week? Fear not. Santa Cruz has plenty of upcoming events:

Oct. 27th: Halloween Festival
Masking making, touch tanks and a haunted theater (oh my!). The city’s annual event is the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit. Louden Nelson Center, 301 Center St.,

Nov. 17th: Wine Passport Program
Buy your passport and check out Santa Cruz's many fantastic wineries like Bonny Doon, Fernwood, and Vine Hill. $45 11am–5pm, 831-685-8463

Nov. 24–Dec. 20: Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train
The famous Roaring Camp Railroad will be decked out in lights for the holidays. Grab a hot cider and enjoy a ride through the redwoods. Departs from Boardwalk, 400 Beach St., 831-335-4484,


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